- Pogačar to prove a thorn in Jumbo-Visma’s side through final week of Tour de France
- Roglič confident in himself, his team leading into final week of the Tour de France
- Analysis: How the GC stars fared on the stage 15 summit finish to Grand Colombier
Pogačar, the most aggressive rider of this year’s Tour, is planning to attack race leader and countryman Primož Roglič all the way to Paris. The 21-year-old Slovenian announced his intentions to fight for yellow during Monday’s rest-day press call.
“We have a lot of respect for each other, but in the race, we both want to win,” Pogačar said. “If I can win the Tour, I will take my chance. We will see who is in yellow in Paris.”
The final week of the Tour de France includes more than a few opportunities for Pogačar to take his chance, with more than a dozen categorized climbs packed into the next five stages. Throughout this year’s race Pogačar has attacked whenever the profile has included mountains. His relentless surges in the Pyrenees helped the battle for GC take focus, and his aggression in the Massif Central and the Jura mountains helped distance defending champion Egan Bernal.
Now, the young Slovenian has the best chance of anyone to dethrone race leader Primož Roglič. Pogačar is just 40 seconds out of the lead.
“The battle for the yellow jersey is not over yet. It will be a fight to the end,” he said. “I have faith in my team. They are ready to give it their all.
All eyes are focused on Wednesday’s mammoth stage 17, which climbs the ‘hors-categorie‘ Col de la Madeleine before finishing atop the highest point of this year’s Tour, the 2,304-meter Col de la Loze. But the soaring finish to the Col de la Loze beckons caution, too. Since the climb is so long (21.5 kilometers) and steep, a rider who blows up on the ascent could lose minutes or more.
“The Col de la Loze [Wednesday] is the big day. We previewed the stage, and it is very, very hard,” Pogačar said. “If you have a bad day there, you can lose 30 minutes.”
The following stage, stage 18, could present an even better opportunity for Pogačar to grab yellow. The 168-kilometer route from Méribel to La Roche-sur-Foron is a punishing slog across the high Alps that opens with three category 1 climb before hitting the ‘hors-categorie’ Plateau des Gliéres ahead of the fast run-in to the finish. The stage, with its shark tooth-like profile, is reminiscent of the penultimate stage of the 2019 Vuelta a España, where Pogačar attacked to take the stage win and grab 3rd place in the final standings.
Scoring a podium in his grand tour debut was a major milestone. Winning the Tour de France in just his second grand tour would be even bigger.
“If someone had told me when the Tour started that all this would happen, I would not have believed them,” Pogačar said. “Now I want to enjoy this moment, and race strong in the final week. No one knows what will happen. Jumbo-Visma looks very strong, but maybe Primož will have a bad day, just like Bernal. Maybe I will have a bad day.”
Throughout the race journalists have asked Pogačar about his relationship with Roglič, and vise-versa. The two Slovenians have been seen talking head-to-head with each other within the peloton, and they have marked each other throughout the race.
Roglič has described their relationship as one of friendship and rivalry and admitted he was disappointed after Pogačar beat him for the stage win on Sunday’s ascent of the Grand Colombier.
Pogačar agreed: friends and also rivals. And only one man can win in Paris.
“We are friends, but we both want to win the race,” he said. “We haven’t had too much time to talk. We barely speak in the race. Everyone is concentrated. I don’t think he let me win [Sunday]. It was a fair fight.”